Skip to main content

Is there anybody out there? (must be, I still have 70 followers.) Anyway, here's a review

I thought it was about time I posted a review, even if it's an informal one. I haven't read that many books lately that I felt like reviewing, but I finally got my hands on a book I have been looking for for many, many years. I haven't been looking for it in a "Oh. My. God. I. Must. Have. This. Book!" kind of way, but rather in the "It would sure be nice to have this book, if only to read it", but still.... I finally came across a second hand copy with an intact dust cover, the right price, no stains and only a slight musty smell that wasn't ripe enough to stop me from buying it, although I did read it at arm's length.

The book?
The Flight of Dragons by Peter Dickinson, illustrated by Wayne Anderson.

Why this book?
I watched an animated movie titled The Flight of Dragons when I was about 13 years old and absolutely loved it. It may possibly have been the first high fantasy film I ever watched (certainly the first one I can remember) and it left a lasting impression on me. Several years later I found out that it was based on a book by an author of the same name as the hero of the movie: Peter Dickinson, but I thought it was a novel. It is fiction, to be sure, but I wouldn't call it a novel. What it really is, is speculative natural history, i.e. cryptozoology, but I only found that out much later, when the Internet came along and I started doing research. Then I ran across information that it was based on a book by Gordon R. Dickson, titled The Dragon and the George. This was confusing, but finally Wikipedia came to my aid and I learned that it was based on both books. I also discovered the real nature of the eponymous book, which only increased my desire to read it. I got my hands on The Dragon and the George several years ago, but the copy had so many pages missing that I gave up trying to read it and turned it onto a hollow book. I did read enough to figure out that other than the names and abilities of some of the characters, the story in the movie seems to bear little resemblance to that in the book (correct me, please, if I'm wrong).


Anyway, I got my hands on what a second-hand bookseller would probably call "a good, clean copy" and, unusually for me, considering most of the books I buy go on the TBR shelves and remain there for months or even years before I finally read them, I got down to business reading it right away. I was expecting a light-hearted, pseudo-scientific, even satirical, treatment of the subject. I did find a tongue-in-cheek treatment, but the humour is subtle enough and the treatment thorough enough that a true believer in the existence of dragons could read it as a straight thesis on the history and zoology of the beasts, albeit one illustrated with light-hearted drawings of dragons and other mythical beasts.

Dickinson looks at dragons from many different viewpoints and pulls up references to mythology, legends, folk-tales and literature to present a natural history of the dragon, including an almost plausible theory explaining why they have left no fossil record. He also quotes literature about dragons, and ends with an interesting chapter on Beowulf and dragons. The only thing, apart from the humour, to distinguish The Flight of Dragons from a book on the natural history of a real animal is the lack of a bibliography, which I would have loved to see because dragons are in the top five of my favourite mythological beings and I like to read about them. However, I can always glean the titles from the text.

The only dragon reference known to me that he seems to have missed (or perhaps I overlooked it?) is one to the lindworm reared by Thora Borgarhjörtur (from the Saga of Ragnar loðbók). Otherwise he seems to have the field of dragon-lore pretty well-covered. He even quotes The Dragon and the George. 

The book gets slightly long-winded at times, but not enough to make me lose interest. All in all, it's an interesting read and a good reference book to have if the subject interests you.

I'm not giving it stars - I've come to the conclusion that giving star ratings to books does not accurately reflect what they are like and henceforth when I post reviews I will rather try to categorise them in a way that reflects what they meant to me. How I do this remains to be seen, but I might go for short, tweet-like summaries of the longer review (e.g. "liked reading but not enough to keep" or "keeping reference", etc.).

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

How to make a simple origami bookmark

Here are some instructions on how to make a simple origami (paper folding) bookmark:

Take a square of paper. It can be patterned origami paper, gift paper or even office paper, just as long as it’s easy to fold. The square should not be much bigger than 10 cm/4 inches across, unless you intend to use the mark for a big book. The images show what the paper should look like after you follow each step of the instructions. The two sides of the paper are shown in different colours to make things easier, and the edges and fold lines are shown as black lines.


Fold the paper in half diagonally (corner to corner), and then unfold. Repeat with the other two corners. This is to find the middle and to make the rest of the folding easier. If the paper is thick or stiff it can help to reverse the folds.



Fold three of the corners in so that they meet in the middle. You now have a piece of paper resembling an open envelope. For the next two steps, ignore the flap.



Fold the square diagonally in two. You…

Reading report for January 2014

Here it is, finally: the reading report for January. (February‘s report is in the works: I have it entered into Excel and I just need to transfer it into Word, edit the layout and write the preface. It will either take a couple of days or a couple of months).

I finished 26 books in January, although admittedly a number of them were novellas. As I mentioned in my previous post, I delved into a new(ish) type of genre: gay (or M/M) romance. I found everything from genuinely sweet romance to hardcore BDSM, in sub-genres like fantasy, suspense and mystery and even a quartet of entertaining (and unlikely) rock star romances. Other books I read in January include the highly enjoyable memoir of cooking doyenne Julia Child, two straight romances, and Jennifer Worth‘s trilogy of memoirs about her experiences as a midwife in a London slum in the 1950s. I also watched the first season of the TV series based on these books and may (I say 'may') write something about this when I have finis…

Stiff – The curious lives of human cadavers

Originally published in November and December 2004, in 4 parts. Book 42 in my first 52 books challenge.

Author: Mary Roach
Year published: 2003
Pages: 303
Genre: Popular science, biology
Where got: amazon.co.uk

Mom, Dad, what happens after we die?

This is a classic question most parents dread having to answer. While this book doesn’t answer the philosophical/theological part of the question – what happens to the soul? - it does claim to contain answers to the biological part, namely: what happens to the body?



Reading progress for Stiff:
Stiff is proving to be an interesting read. Roach writes in a matter-of-fact journalistic style that makes the subject seem less grim than it really is, but she does on occasion become a bit too flippant about it, I guess in an attempt to distance herself. Although she uses humour to ease the grimness, the jokes – which, by the way, are never about the dead, only the living, especially Roach herself – often fall flat. Perhaps it’s just me, but this is a serio…